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The Upgradeable Allwinner Dev Board That's Laptop-Compatible Raises $50k So Far

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  • The Upgradeable Allwinner Dev Board That's Laptop-Compatible Raises $50k So Far

    Phoronix: The Upgradeable Allwinner Dev Board That's Laptop-Compatible Raises $50k So Far

    At the beginning of the month I wrote about That Open, Upgradeable ARM Dev Board Is Trying To Make A Comeback, the EOMA68-spec'ed project formerly known as the Improv Dev Board. It's still using the same (rather slow) Allwinner SoC but has since seen some improvements and there's also a laptop compatible route too. The project has now raised more than $50k USD, but their goal is still three times that at $150k they are trying to raise over the next month...

    http://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?pag...ner-Board-EOMA

  • #2
    I'd be fairly suspicious considering how awful the Pi-Top turned out... and that was $200ish, so I could be overly suspicious because this is significantly more expensive when you add screen and case, etc.
    Last edited by Palu Macil; 07-30-2016, 01:53 PM.

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    • #3
      Neat idea. My current laptop sort of comes close to the same goals as this. It's a NUC bolted onto the back of a Motorola Lapdock - so I can replace/upgrade the screen/keyboard/trackpad separately from all the compute, but upgrading the processor still requires an entirely new and pricey motherboard, and from a freedom perspective, it's pretty par.

      I'd love for these ideas to take off, and I'm especially intrigued about reprogramming the STM32F072 controller to have a bit of fun, but I can't seriously use a system with those specs as a primary PC. And it sounds like you need to use Linux 3.4 for full hardware support? Not 100% sure as I skimmed parts of it - the author could learn to write more concisely.

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      • #4
        Remember One Laptop Per Child? This board can sort of revive that sort of really basic laptop but more modern and robust which can be useful as an ARM based Chromebook. Hopefully there be some potential laptop designs that can come out of this as well. If this can be pulled off and there is interest in developing solid yet low cost machines using this board design then it could well revive a market in lower cost machines that run either ChromeOS or even a variant of Ubuntu.

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        • #5
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allwinner_Technology

          Wow, what irony. To tout an oss dev board and base it on ALLWINNER!!!!

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          • #6
            Originally posted by liam View Post
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allwinner_Technology
            Wow, what irony. To tout an oss dev board and base it on ALLWINNER!!!!
            They aren't using Allwinner software and Allwinner is basically the only manufacturer where you can find low amounts of chips on sale (from third parties) too.
            Support for Allwinner hardware is added (and mainlined) by team sunxi (not affiliated with Allwinner in any way) and it's relatively good.

            This project is flawed on many other aspects.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Palu Macil View Post
              I'd be fairly suspicious considering how awful the Pi-Top turned out... and that was $200ish, so I could be overly suspicious because this is significantly more expensive when you add screen and case, etc.
              Pi-top didn't include development and production of raspberry Pi board to run it.
              This project does include the development and manufacturing of the module thingy that contains the SoC running the system.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by wallacoloo View Post
                Neat idea. My current laptop sort of comes close to the same goals as this. It's a NUC bolted onto the back of a Motorola Lapdock - so I can replace/upgrade the screen/keyboard/trackpad separately from all the compute, but upgrading the processor still requires an entirely new and pricey motherboard, and from a freedom perspective, it's pretty par.

                I'd love for these ideas to take off, and I'm especially intrigued about reprogramming the STM32F072 controller to have a bit of fun, but I can't seriously use a system with those specs as a primary PC. And it sounds like you need to use Linux 3.4 for full hardware support? Not 100% sure as I skimmed parts of it - the author could learn to write more concisely.
                Allwinner have been Linux 3.4 for quite some time and have been working hard on getting upstream support, but according to their blogpost they have gotten Linux 4.7 to run on it.

                https://www.crowdsupply.com/eoma68/m...oot-and-kernel

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by liam View Post
                  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allwinner_Technology

                  Wow, what irony. To tout an oss dev board and base it on ALLWINNER!!!!
                  In fact it's not exactly a dev board, more of a consumer device, even if it may end up being backed by more computer literate people. And it has a breakout board so you can kind of use it as a dev board too. But I think if you just wanted a dev board you'd get one of the many SBCs out there.

                  More interestingly, you don't have to use the laptop with Allwinner anymore. There's a passthrough card that you can use to connect an HDMI and USB cable and plug a bigger screen and keyboard to your mobile or HDMI stick or SBC or whatever. OR you can have another laptop and use the EOMA68 laptop enclosure and passthourgh card as a 1.1 Kg second screen. I think it's quite versatile.

                  I dislike allwinner like anyone, I've heard the SOC itself is about 10% of the price of the CPU card, so you could think it's just too little to base your decision on. You could also think anything else you buy may be produced by companies that colaborate in weapons trade or mass surveilance or something. Maybe the RAM manufacturer is more evil that Allwinner, and we just don't know. Yet once you know, since you always have the option of not buying anything, it's hard to go and buy Allwinner. With the passthrough card at least you may be able to not buy another CPU.

                  In a future if you or anyone develops an EOMA68 card with a better processor, you can unplug the passthrough card and plug in the better SOC card. You could also repair or upgrade individual components of the laptop enclosure, because it's open and all, although that is more work.

                  But the point is that it is very difficult to choose a good SOC. You have to accept one or more of restrictions in freedom, performace, power envelope, availability in low volume, or other things. Even in so basic things as the expectation that companies will try to keep the image of being legal, let alone ethical. Lkcl wrote a post about it. I think it's slightly partisan but it gets the idea across, there're simply no good SOCs around. Given this, the fact that you can separate the SOC from the peripherals and upgrade them separately is a big advantage. I say partisan because you can easily look at the list with different requirements in mind, or even with the same it is not obvious why some are less highlighted than others. But this is nitpicking, the idea is you can't have it all.

                  Whether the standarisation of the EOMA68 proves sufficient future proof is up to see, but it will depend on how much people support its beginning.

                  It's obviously not the best thing in any of the features. It's more a promising basis for a different evolution of computer design and commercialization.

                  If you aim for bleeding edge features, either the patents or the complexity itself will kill it before people has time to learn what they need to take it and run with it.
                  If you aim for less features it will be more manegeable to extend or adapt it, and still useful enough for some usecases. No one is telling you to edit video with it.

                  You can think that it's too much money for a promise, or be too fearful to invest your money on it until it is proven.

                  But then a mainstream device is also a promise. You can also be too fearful to invest your money on an Apple, Samsung or such like device that it is relatively proven to have great features but the fact that you will be able to enjoy them in the future is just a promise (online content may evolve to other formats, security updates may be unavailable, batteries can be unreplaceable, and so on and so forth). I mean computer use is so out of the hands of the user nowadays, than any offer is just to be taken on faith alone. Even if they lent you the device one month before buying it you still could not tell how good or how long will you enjoy it once you buy it.

                  I'd rather take the risk on a project that is trying to do the right thing that in a project that is only profit driven. Even if only for the consolation, when this project and others after it fail, and computing stops being a tool for people and ends up being a way to control everyone, and younger ones ask you what you did to stop it, to be able to say "not enough, but at least some of us tried".

                  I'm afraid I'm sounding too profound or weird. But just look at bicycles: some people like fixies even if they know there are more modern designs that are as expensive, good for your health or for the environment, they just find fixies more cute. You can also think a modular and fixable computer design is more cute even if it won't let you look as mainstream or keep the wheel turning on everyone-gets-more-powerful-hardware-because-everyone-expect-everyone-to-have-more-computer-hardware-and-so-we-all-end-up-screwed-by-us-all-and-some-manufacturers-profit.

                  P.S.: I didn't mean the EOMA68 campaign is likely to fail. Just that even if that was the case it might be reasonable to back it, or even more so. In fact the last update says they're at 80% of the units they need for the EOMA68 cards at arroudn 50% of days left.
                  Maybe it fails part of the campaign and not another part. Maybe it takes off as planned. we'll see.

                  P.S. I started by quoting liam but I'm not really answering to anyone in particular, I just wanted to point out the Allwinnerless option.

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                  • #10
                    Do we really need ANY more poorly supported Allwinner A20 hardware? Who cares what the projects goal is we need anything based on ARM chips that have good mainline support, not something that requires some third party group to make it work in their free time. It's really too bad other manufacturers won't make their chips available in low quantities.

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